Thursday in Hawaii, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law for fiscal year 2014. He also added a signing statement in which he reiterated his desire to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. It was a goal he mentioned often during the 2008 campaign, and in the first days of his presidency he issued an executive order to close the Cuba-based detention facility.
“Since taking office,” the president wrote, “I have repeatedly called upon the Congress to work with my Administration to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.”
The president singled out two sections of the Act for criticism, including Section 1034, which “renews the bar against using appropriated funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees in the United States for any purpose,” such as for trial.
The executive branch must have the authority to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees, based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests. For decades, Republican and Democratic administrations have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorists in Federal court. Those prosecutions are a legitimate, effective, and powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation. Removing that tool from the executive branch does not serve our national security interests.